Sri Lanka is a perfect place to travel with kids. There’s so much to see and do for kids that one needs at least a month to enjoy it. With 8 days in hand, we marked the places on the map of Sri Lanka that can be visited with a kid in tow, and off we went.
Here’s a Day Wise Sri Lanka Itinerary with how to reach and places to stay details –
Day 1: Colombo – Pinnawala Elephant Orphonage – Kandy|
Day 2: Kandy
Day 3: Kandy – Sigiriya – Dambulla – Kandy
Day 4: Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
Day 5: Nuwara Eliya – Horton Plains National Park – Nuwara Eliya
Day 6: Nuwara Eliya to Udawalawa National Park
Day 7: Udawalawa – Mirissa – Galle
Day 8: Galle – Balapitiya – Bentota – Negombo – Bandaranaike International Airport (Fly Back Home) Goodbye Sri Lanka. Until we meet again!
3 hours 40 minutes flight (Sri Lankan Airways) from Delhi took us to Colombo. It was already quarter past ten by the time we came out of the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.
We stopped for breakfast at a super lovely Cafe Zen before heading to the Sacred city of Kandy.
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Our driver recommended stopping by at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage on the way to Kandy. The way our driver talked about the orphanage left us with the impression that it’s a unique place where elephants are given love and shelter. Anyhow, squeezing in Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage served as a much-needed break from the journey.
Mini-me couldn’t hold her excitement. It’s cute how kids don’t get bored doing or seeing the same thing again and again rather they enjoy it analogously every time. Enjoying the predictability is unique to children I guess Having seen elephants in the untamed and wild in National Parks in India, I and hubby were not really interested in Pinnawala.
However, we were definitely interested in cherishing the happiness and excitement of our daughter while feeding a baby elephant. Our happiness and excitement faded away the moment we saw the elephants chained blatantly. I regretted our visit to Pinnawala and left it right away. I felt sorry for buying the tickets to such a despicable place.
I’d rather visit Yala National Park or Udawalawe National Park to see the elephants roaming freely than a place where animals are abused for some amount of money. Minneriya National Park is also a lovely nature preserve where kids can have fun while seeing one of the most giant and intelligent yet humble creatures in the wild.
Our lack of research made us commit this mistake. I hope everyone who reads this makes the sensible and responsible choice by not visiting places like Pinnawala. It’s time we stand against animal cruelty and abuse.
We sternly communicated our driver to be extra cautious next time and think twice before taking us to places where animals are abused to earn money.
We were tired and Dark Essence Cafe in Mawanella was the perfect place to stop by for a refreshing cup of coffee with a piece of cake.
Find the Best Restaurants in Sri Lanka to Try Authentic Sri Lankan Cuisine.
Scenic mountainous drive to Kandy and a spell of rain helped to lift our mood. Kandy looked beautiful and serene, drenched in rain. Our driver stopped the car for us to admire the bird’s eye view of Kandy from Arthur’s seat(Kandy viewpoint) before dropping us at the hotel.
After having a scrumptious lunch at Theva Cuisine, we were off to our hotel. We spent some wonderful time breathing in the mesmerizing views from our room balcony while sipping tea (One of my favorite parts of travel) while mini-me clicked hundreds of pictures airily (One of her favorite parts of travel.)
Our evening was adorned with a stupendous performance at Kandy Lake Club Cultural Show. It’s full of life and color extravaganza.
I’d Recommend Booking a Full-Day Guided Tour of Kandy that includes all the Must-See Attractions with a Kandy Lake Club Cultural Show.
Performers with their energetic performances, vivid apparels, compelling folklore tales, perpetual twirling, whirling, and open-air grand finale act make you skip a blink. The kids and adults equally enjoy this graceful spectacle.
Show Duration: 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm; Entrance Ticket: USD 5/LKR 1000/INR 400
We ended our day with a visit to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa). The evening ceremony at the temple is truly worth witnessing. Though we couldn’t see the Buddha’s sacred tooth relic as it’s housed in a decorative gold structure but the all-embracing experience was beautiful.
Operational Hours: 5:30 am – 8 pm; Entrance Ticket: USD 10/INR 712/1810 LKR; Average Time Spent: 2 hours
Note: Make sure to visit the temple either at morning tevava (5:30 am – 7 am) or at ninth hour poojava (9:30 am – 11 am) or at evening tevava (6:30 pm – 8 pm) because that’s when they let out the casket holding the Tooth Relic from the chamber for devotees to see.
Walking on the streets of Kandy was the highlight of our first day in Sri Lanka. Despite all the hustle and bustle, Kandy caught my attention because of its tasteful classical Kandyan and colonial-style buildings. Busy and vivid markets are worth a stroll. Mini-me was so in love with tuk-tuks that it became our preferred mode of transportation in Sri Lanka.
Tuk-tuks are sure to intrigue the little ones while you discover Sri Lanka with kids. You can even rent a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka for an authentic fun experience. Taking an all-inclusive Kandy City Tour is also a great option.
Offbeat Kandy: For travelers who seek unusual and offbeat things to do in Kandy, Helga’s Folly, the outré anti-hotel is for you. They also have a restaurant.
We had the best dosa for dinner in Kandy at Sri Krishna Dosai.
The total distance from Colombo to Kandy is 116 km. The entire journey takes about 4 hours with traffic. You can travel from Colombo to Kandy by train, bus, plane, a hired car with driver, or a rental car. There are frequent buses that run from Colombo Fort Bus Stand and one-way ride costs between 200 to 400 LKR per person.
You should book a train journey in advance. The ticket cost varies from 200 to 1500 LKR depending upon the distance and class. You can effortlessly travel from Colombo with Cinnamon Air’s domestic flights to Kandy that operates twice daily. It’s the fastest (45 minutes) but the costliest way.
We hired a car with a driver for 8 days in Sri Lanka. This way we saved the struggle of self-driving on Sri Lankan roads and enjoyed our trip with peace of mind. I found this guide to the cost of a driver in Sri Lanka quite helpful.
Self-driving by a rental car is available but driving in Sri Lanka isn’t easy. Sri Lanka is infamous for tedious traffic and frequent accidents. Driving isn’t fun but a hassle. Though there are some people who have tried self-drive in Sri Lanka and recommend others to try it. You can read what travelers have to say about self-driving in Sri Lanka on TripAdvisor.
There are two routes to reach Kandy from Colombo – via A01 ( Colombo-Kandy Road) or E03 (Colombo-Katunayake Expressway) and the latter one takes lesser time.
Locals recommend Malkey for renting a car in Sri Lanka.
Read What Other Travelers Have to Say About Renting a Car with Driver in Sri Lanka on TripAdvisor
We stayed at Kandy Eco Lodges. Great location, great ambiance, great for families, great food, and great value for money. It simply can’t get any better than this!
Accommodation options abound in Kandy, but the coolest ones areThe Elephant Stables, Cinnamon Citadel Kandy, OZO Kandy, and Mahaweli Shades.
As I mentioned, we had hired a car with a driver for the whole duration of the trip. It made day trips easy for us. If you are not planning to hire a car, better book day tours to Sigiriya and Dambulla keeping Colombo, Negombo, and Kandy as base cities.
Here are some of the suggestions for Sigiriya and Dambulla tours:
I’d not recommend using Sri Lanka’s public transportation with kids. If you want to cover Dambulla and Sigiriya in a day, you got to wake up pretty early. We started for Dambulla at 5 in the morning. But, you wouldn’t regret getting up crazy early once you have visited the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Dambulla Cave Temple or Golden Temple of Dambulla (Jumbukola Vihara) and Sigiriya Rock Fortress (Alakamandawa).
The ancient city built for king Kashyapa I is undoubtedly an archeological wonder. The Sigiriya Lion Rock hike isn’t as difficult as we thought it would be. It took us around an hour to climb the whirling staircase with around 1,250 steps.
The ancient frescoes, the lion’s paws, the landscaped water gardens, a monastery, and the ancient ruins stun you. The views from the top of the 200-meter lion rock add to the appeal. It’s not allowed to take photographs of the frescoes. A visual treat awaits as one reaches the summit. Eyes get confused about whether to admire the ruins or to take pleasure in the stunning surrounding views.
Operational Hours: 7 am – 5:30 pm; Entry Ticket: USD 30 /LKR 5424 (Foreigners); USD 15 /INR 1024/LKR 2712 (Citizens of SAARC Countries); Average Time Spent: 2-3 hours
Note: Get to Sigiriya as soon as it opens to avoid the rush. The staircase is flooded with tourists later in the day making a climb time-consuming and the weather is too hot to handle. If possible, plan on weekdays.
Pidurangala Rock, 2 km from Sigiriya gives amazing views of Sigiriya Lion Rock and the surroundings. It almost takes an hour to climb Pidurangala and costs only USD 3/INR 213/LKR 543. If you are pressed for time and budget, choose Pidurangala Rock over Sigiriya. If you have time and money to spend, choose to witness sunrise at Sigiriya and sunset at Pidurangala. You can explore Sigiriya and Pidurangala both in a day tour from Colombo as well as Negombo.
Almost 2000 years old, Dambulla is known to be the largest cave temple in Sri Lanka. The temple is well preserved. Out of 80 caves, 5 caves contain the major attractions which include statues and illustrations depicting the life of Gautam Buddha. A trip to Sigiriya and Dambulla will make sure you remain fit Here too, you need to climb almost 300 steps to reach the cave temple.
Golden Temple is at the bottom and Cave Temple (five caves) is at the top. Check out the Dambulla Museum at the Golden Temple. There are few things to keep in mind before visiting the cave temple:
Note: If you are covering Sigiriya and Dambulla on a day trip like us, plan a sunrise at Sigiriya and sunset at Dambulla.
Operational Hours: 7 am – 7 pm (last ticket sale at 5 pm); Entry Ticket: USD 10/LKR 1810 / INR 712; Average Time Spent: 1-2 hours
There are many beautiful stay options at Sigiriya and Dambulla if you plan to stay overnight. Based on fellow traveler’s reviews – Hotel Sigiriya and Elephant Stables Dambulla are the best of the lot.
We ate lunch at Wijesiri Family Restaurantin Sigiriya and loved it to the core. Roy’s Hut, Mom’s Kitchen, and Kenoli Restaurant are other nice restaurants in Sigiriya. Just about 3 km from Dambulla Royal Cave Temple and Golden Temple, Amarena Cafe is a lovely place to sit and have a good cup of tea or coffee.
We suggest Athula Restaurant, Sandra Restaurant, and Sakura Cooking Classes and Restaurant in Dambulla.
We traveled by a hired car from Kandy to Sigiriya/Dambulla. The choice of transportation depends on the time and money you have in hand. The public bus is cheaper but not as comfortable as a taxi.
The bus leaves from Kandy Bus Station every 30 minutes and takes less than 2 hours to reach Dambulla/around 40 minutes to reach Sigiriya. A regular bus costs almost LKR 70. An air-conditioned bus costs almost three times of the regular bus. Catch an early morning bus (7 am) and make a stop at Sigiriya. Board a bus to Dambulla once you have finished exploring Sigiriya. Take a bus back to Kandy from Dambulla.
Enough has been written about the scenic train journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and I’d love to travel by train but somehow I prefer road trips. Road trips give freedom to pause wherever and whenever you want to; touch and relish the amazing vistas; click pictures as and when you wish and give a chance to connect and know the local side.
It’s just a matter of preferences, you see. The road journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya turned out to be one of the most dramatic road trips I’ve ever experienced.
With every turn, magic unfolds. I inhaled the fresh air and savored the bewitching vistas of the magical hill country winding alongside rolling hills blanketed by vividly colored flowers mocking the assorted color pallet and lush tea plantations, numerous waterfalls, and streams. Drinking in the pretty countryside makes you thirsty, craving for more.
We had lunch at a restaurant in Ramboda Falls Hotel. It was truly a lunch with a view. Eating authentic Sri Lankan cuisine while chugging in the beautiful views of Ramboda Falls that have shadowy mountains in the background enveloped by luxurious tea gardens. Isn’t it inviting? Absolute soulful and tummyful experience
There are many tea factories on the way to Nuwara Eliya and in Nuwara Eliya. You can visit any one of them to see the entire tea production process from plucking to withering to drying. The tour of the tea factory lead by a graceful girl staff is a learning experience for kids.
Mini-me was surprised to know that six to seven types of tea like green tea, black tea, white tea and many more can be obtained from the same tea plant just by changing the combination of different leaves of the same plant. At the end of the tour, they make you taste all the varieties of tea so you can buy the one you liked the most. My experience says that the price of tea at the factory is relatively higher than it’s at outside shops.
So, just experience the tea making process and buy it from outside. Stop by to admire the viewpoints and tea plantation gardens on the way.
Don’t forget to check two of the most beautiful waterfalls, Devon Falls and St Clair Falls in Nuwara Eliya while traveling from Nuwara Eliya to Negombo. They are on the way so you can make a brief stopover. We had a car so we explored these waterfalls while staying in Nuwara Eliya.
After checking in to our hotel, Queenswood Cottage in Nuwara Eliya, we left for an evening walk to explore Sri Lanka’s lovely hill country on foot. It was amazing to take an evening stroll on the streets of Nuwara Eliya. The temperature drastically dropped down in the evening. We weren’t prepared for such cool weather (quite conflicting to Sri Lanka’s tropical climate) and had to buy warm jackets from the market.
Meandering through Victoria Park, Golf Club, and walk away surrounding Gregory Lake; it was time for dinner. Araliya Green City Food Court was a perfect choice to dine while listening to the live band. You can discover Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka’s Little England on this Full-Day Private Tour of Nuwara Eliya.
We stayed at Queenswood Cottage, however, there’s umpteen number of lovely stay options in Nuwara Eliya to fit everyone’s budget and style. Do you love our recommendations? Great
The most preferred way to travel to Nuwara Eliya from Kandy is the famous scenic train journey. Make sure to book in advance as the tickets get sold quickly. Nuwara Eliya station is called Nanu Oye.
I’d recommend buying first-class tickets if you look for comfort and buying second and third-class tickets if you are traveling on budget and love open windows and doors in trains. This train leaves from Colombo Fort Station and goes all the way to Badulla. You can catch it either from Colombo Fort, Peradeniya Station, or Kandy.
We didn’t have time to wait for the breakfast so packed easy to stash snacks and water to survive through the hiking day. Nuwara Eliya to Horton Plains is an easy 1 hour 10 minutes journey.
Exactly at 5 a.m., we started a 1-hour journey to Horton Plains National Park. It’s better to reach before 6 in the morning and start the hike as soon as it opens because it gets pretty crowded especially on weekends and also gets misty and hazy mostly after 10. Almost a 9 km circular trail through the forest takes you to the end of the highlands of Horton known as World’s End.
Baker’s Falls is another not-to-be-missed attraction on the loop. The walk to the World’s End and back takes around 3-4 hours and is quite an easy hike.
Don’t forget to pack water as the weather gets hot later in the day. Pack some snacks for kids to keep them busy while walking. They’ll complain less if they get something to munch Oh! It’s pretty cold in the morning so bring a warm jacket.
I stood on the cliff staring down the valley in sheer amazement upon reaching the World’s End. Deep ravine showcases little villages with beautiful tea plantation gardens and they say you can see the south coast on a clear day. That’s rare, though.
Note: Try not to stand on the edge of the cliff with kids at World’s end as there’s no railing and can be life-threatening.
It was an awesome experience. If time permits, you can enjoy the longer hikes to Mt Kirigalpoththa and Mt Thotupola, two of the tallest mountains in Sri Lanka.
Operational Hours: 6 AM – 6 PM; Entry Fee: USD 15 (adult), USD 8 (child); Average Time Spent: 4-5 hours
Note: There are additional VAT (15%) and Service Charges (USD 8) on the Entry Fee.
There aren’t any good places to eat in and around Horton Plains National Park. There’s a basic yet expensive cafe inside the Horton Plains National Park at Farr Inn next to the national park office. It’s better to carry your own snacks.
On our way back to Nuwara Eliya, our driver suggested visiting Moon Plains which is a few km from Nuwara Eliya because we still had a half-day to go. Though apprehensive, we asked him to take us to the Moon Plains.
As soon as we reached the Potato seed farm which is the start of the Moon Plains, our apprehensions melted away in the mist. The ride along the bending and turning paths became enchanting as the breathtaking terrains unfolded before us.
View from the Mini World’s End was seductive. Yes! Mountains fading into the distance, forests covered in the dancing mist, absolute quietness vanquished by the sound of birds every now and then, and the views that give a new definition to the beauty sum up Moon Plains.
One can see the colossal mountains of Sri Lanka viz. Pidurutalaga (tallest), Single Tree Mountain, Kikiliyamana Mountain, Great Western Mountain, Konical Hill Mountain, Kirigalpoththa Mountain, Thotupola Mountain, Hakgala Mountain, and Namunukula Mountain from the viewpoint.
One word. Spellbinding.
Operational Hours: 7 am – 5 pm; Entry Ticket: LKR 400/ INR 157/USD 3 plus LKR 2000/INR 784/USD 12; Average Time Spent: 2-3 hours
The public transportation services aren’t available for Horton Plains. You can either take a taxi or a tuk-tuk to reach the national park. Tuk-tuk quotes unreasonably high costs for the round trip. If you don’t want to hire a car better book a day tour from Nuwara Eliya to Horton Plains.
We prefer getting up as early as possible when we travel. It’s always easy and hassle-free to reach and get entry at major attractions which are otherwise crowded at peak hours.
As always, following our strategy, we started our journey to Udawalawe National Park at 4 in the morning and reached there at 8 a.m. The best time to visit Udawalwe for a safari is at dawn (the gate opens at 6 a.m.) when you can witness the mesmerizing sunrise too.
We missed that, however, the park was relatively less crowded and mini-me reveled in the 4-hour safari with an experienced guide arranged by our resort at Udawalwe. We saw a herd of elephants with a cute few months old baby elephant, crocodiles, water buffalos, monitor lizards, spotted deer, monkeys, and different species of birds.
Spotting the beautiful vibrant toucan was the highlight of the safari. We ended our day with a beautiful sunset at Udawalwe which washed away my regret of missing the sunrise.
Operational Hours: 6 am – 6 pm; Entry Ticket: USD 15/INR 1068/LKR 2724 (for one day); Average Time Spent: 4-5 hours
It’s a long journey and better be done in a hired taxi or minivan.
We stayed at Riverside Camping Udawalawe which is quite close to Udawalawe Safari. Such a beautiful and unique place to stay. You feel close to nature. I loved everything about the place and recommend it to everyone who plans to stay at Udawalawe.
They also arrange Udawalawe Safari for their guests at reasonable prices. You can choose the one that suits your needs from many stay options in Udawalwe. Looking for our recommendations? Great!
There are a handful of basic restaurants in or around Udawalawe. We ate at the Common Rose Restaurant. Owing to the remote location, it’s a good place to eat. The staff is courteous and helpful.
Finally, it was beach time, the main reason people visit Sri Lanka with kids for We were off to Galle with a much-recommended halt at the beach town, Mirissa.
It took us a little more than 3 hours to reach Mirissa. Mirissa beach lived up to our expectations. A pretty and quiet beach with laid-back aura.
Mirissa is one of the best places in Sri Lanka to do the Whale Watching Tour. My little girl was a bit disappointed as we couldn’t’ do the whale watching tour because of the bad weather. I was sad too because she was utterly excited just thinking about getting a glimpse of friendly dolphins in the ocean and I guess it’s the best thing to experience when you visit Sri Lanka with kids.
We promised to bring her back to Sri Lanka during the whale watching season.
The bus from Udawalawe goes to Galle via Matara. You can get down at Matara for Mirissa. The shuttle, taxi, and private minibus or minivan are the better options to travel with family. Check the shuttle and minivan booking details here.
If you plan to do Whale Watching Tour in Mirissa, book yourself a comfortable stay in Mirissa. It has some surprisingly amazing accommodation options.
Try Cosmic Power Woody Cottage andO Mirissa Cafe & Bistro when in Mirissa.
All the buses going to Colombo from Matara via Galle and Unawatuna stop at Mirissa. You can catch the bus from the main high street in Mirissa. The buses run about every 15 minutes.
The Heritage Galle Fort was our abode for the two days in Galle. We ordered food in our room (PS: It was delicious) and retired to bed early.
Out of all the available accommodations in Galle; Jetwing Lighthouse, Sega Bnb, Windy Garden, Amari Galle, Deltora Villa, Limecabanas, Ginganga Lodge, Niyagama House, and Fort Bazaar remain the most desired and recommended by the seasoned travelers.
Finally, it was a day to relax, rejuvenate, and do nothing. We planned to explore the town of Galle at a relatively slow pace. We did nothing but everything in Galle.
Galle is a dreamy little Dutch colonial town. The dazzling mix of colors and architecture bedazzled us. We explored the beautiful town on foot but our eyes and feet never felt tired. The lovely white lighthouse, lively streets with vivid shades of flowers, bizarre shapes of windows and doors, and old Dutch Galle Fort (UNESCO World Heritage Site) which is the major attraction in Galle make it a perfect place to be.
I’d recommend keeping Galle as a base for the most part of the Sri Lanka trip. We spent our evening at Unawatuna Beach watching the sunset in the ocean leaving behind the perfect shades to color our moments at Galle.
Galle is the only place in Sri Lanka that has a staggering choice of restaurants with an innovative menu and classy ambiance. We just adored Poonie’s Kitchen for its charming ambiance, fresh organic food, and eco-friendly practices.
Church Street Social for appetizing breakfast and coffee and the Isle of Gelatofor luscious gelato and sorbets.
It was our last day and we wanted to make the most of it. Our flight was at midnight, so we had enough time in hand.
The sole reason to indulge in the Madu Ganga River Safari in Balapitiya was to see the point where the river meets the ocean but the cruise came as a surprise with its multitude of experiences.
Stopping by at the old Kothduwa Temple (Koth Duwa Raja Maha Viharaya) on an island inside the river, making way through amazing Mangroves, tasting the authentic cinnamon tea at Cinnamon Island, enjoying fish therapy, and witnessing the river ending into the ocean; Madu River has a lot to offer.
Note: If you visit the Kothduwa Temple, you are expected to pay a donation to the priest at the temple. Our guide advocated donating at least LKR 500.
Operational Hours: 8 am – 5 pm; Madu Boat Safari Ticket: USD 25/LKR 4540/INR 1780; Average Time Spent: 2-3 hours
Our driver took us to a Turtle Hatchery despite our warning to not take us to places where animals are abused to earn money. Ah! so much for the rapacity of earning a little commission.
As he stopped outside the Turtle Hatchery, I right away asked him to leave the place. “They support the turtle conservation project. It’s different.” our driver argued. We entered the Turtle Hatchery but left early dejected.
I had imagined turtles toddling off down the seashore and It seemed like a real visual treat to witness these cute creatures in their natural habitat. But as we walked into the hatchery, I sensed that it’s not what we imagined.
It was shuddering and dreadful to see dozens of turtles of different sizes and ages squashed into the little ponds with dirty smelly water. “When would you release these turtles into the ocean?” I asked. ” Some after few days and some after few months, it depends.” the guide answered.
Mini-me denied holding the baby turtle in her hands. Harassing them just for the sake of a picture isn’t the right thing to do, a girl of her age could also understand. What’s wrong with us then? The whole thing seemed like a money-making project rather than the conservation project.
They literally torture tiny animals for their own interest.
Hop on any bus going to Colombo and request the driver to drop you at Balapitiya or Bentota. Also, there are trains running from Matara to Colombo with stops at Galle and Bentota. It takes 55 minutes to reach Bentota from Galle by train. There are regular buses and trains from Galle to Colombo.
We stopped by at different beaches (Hikkaduwa, Bentota, Mount Lavinia, and Negombo) during our journey from Galle to Bandaranaike International airport. There’s nothing like too much beach right!
We bid goodbye to Sri Lanka with a mesmerizing sunset at Negombo Beach. Negombo is a beautifully perfect place while you wait for your flight back home because of its proximity to the international airport (20 mins journey.)
Seafood lovers should head to Edwin while vegetarians can enjoy the Queen’s Restaurant’s great food and ambiance.
The Hangar is a great place to dine in with family.
Sri Lanka is a relaxed and fun place to travel with kids. However, the right preparation while you plan to travel to Sri Lanka with kids can help you take the bumps along the way breezily.